It was like the Apollo Theatre of Figueroa Street on Friday when the rehearsal stage for the 54th Annual Grammy Awards was given over to a wall of flickering light bulbs and a giant marquee that read: "Live on Stage Bruno Mars."
The pyro and giant spotlights that accompanied the signage will give the 26-year-old Mars the most incandescent production of the Sunday night broadcast on CBS, but the music he brings with him lives up to the look-at-me glare.
His practice run-throughs of "Runaway Baby" were high-adrenaline, brassy adventures in old-school revue entertainment. It's safe to say that the late, great James Brown would have approved if he saw the dance moves and heard the stage yelps.
The number, it turns out, is one that Mars (who is up for six Grammys) and Grammy executive producer Ken Erhlich discussed for more than a year. "It's a song I loved when I went to see him in concert and we talked about it last year," Ehrlich said between takes at Friday rehearsals.
"It's going to really grab people." At rehearsals, Mars, in sunglasses with jacket sleeves rolled up, cut loose with whiplash energy even though he was playing to thousands of empty seats. "Everybody stand up!" He yelled and then, when he saw a gaggle of fans in distant corner of venue he laughed. "I got seven of you!"
-- Geoff Boucher
Photo: Bruno Mars in November 2011. Credit: Matt Sayles/ Associated Press